Om lingvistisk relativitet.
Rapport, 1972

With the so-called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (=our language inflyences our conception of reality) as a point of departure we discuss in this essay some possible meanings of "linguistic relativity". We start with a very brief outline of the historical development of the thesis, and in the third chapter we try to interpret the meaning of Sapir´s and Whorf´s vague formulations of the idea; we arrive at the conclusion that it is not one but several hypotheses, with consequences on both a perceptual and a conceptual or cognitive level, and that on must precise and delimit the theme in order to formulate a testable scientific hypothesis. In the fourt chapter we consider a systematization of the hypothesis into four different levels, and in this connexion we also discuss some experiments that have been carried out in order to verify the hypothesis. One of the consequences of this systematization is that it is important not only to show potential "Whorfian" effects" but also to show the degree and the extent of these effects in relation to other factors that may affect cognitive processes. In the fifth chapter, lastly, we look at the problem from broader perspective, and we emphasize that it is inadequate with a static approach; we mean that a more dynamic approach is necessary. Moreover, the hypothesis is mostly interpreted in terms of physical phenomena, but we consider it more important to treat social phenomena - the essential effects of the idea appear in the social field.


Jan-Anders Karlsson

Göteborgs universitet

Björn Nilsson

Göteborgs universitet



Forskningsrapport / Sociologiska institutionen, Göteborgs universitet: 23